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US hails 'inspiring' LS polls, will work with next PM

india Updated: May 13, 2014 01:42 IST

The United States on Monday hailed "the inspiring example" of democracy in action in India, congratulating the country for its record elections in which more than 550 million people voted.

Washington also pledged to work with "the leaders chosen by the Indian people," state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, as exit polls tipped a win for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under Narendra Modi, who was long boycotted by the US until earlier this year.

India had organized "the largest-ever free and fair democratic election in human history," Psaki told reporters.

The polls were "an inspiring example of the power of the democratic process in action, and the United States, like so many others around the world, has great admiration and respect for the vibrancy, diversity and resilience of India's democracy."

Four out of five exit polls released soon after the final ballots were cast on Monday pointed to a narrow majority for the BJP, indicating a new government led by Modi was poised to take over.

That would inflict a humiliating defeat on the ruling Congress and its leaders, the Gandhi political dynasty.

But Modi, who was boycotted by both the United States and the European Union for a decade, remains a deeply polarizing figure over allegations he failed to curb swiftly deadly 2002 riots which left at least 1,000 people dead shortly after he came to power as chief minister there.

The US only ended its boycott of Modi in February when Nancy Powell, the outgoing US ambassador to India, shook hands with him at the start of closed-door talks in Gujarat.

In 2005, the US had refused Modi a visa under a domestic law that bars entry to any foreign official seen as responsible for "severe violations of religious freedom."

But Psaki on Monday refused to discuss his visa case, saying only: "We look forward to working with the leaders chosen by the Indian people to advance this important partnership and to set an ambitious agenda."

Ties between India and the United States were badly damaged last year when Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, was arrested and strip-searched in New York on charges of underpaying her servant.

US diplomats came under criticism from New Delhi for not responding more quickly and forcefully to calm the furor after Khobragade's arrest, which led to Indian countermeasures against US diplomats.

Khobragade returned to India under a deal, but prosecutors went ahead in March with a second indictment.

Powell meanwhile announced she was retiring and would leave India by the end of May.